From graphing paper to algebra puzzles, one teacher shares tons of practical lesson ideas for turning math class into “Mathcraft”
Ed. note: For more Minecraft lesson ideas, see Jim Pike’s lesson plans on order of operations and area and perimeter, featuring explainer videos and more, on the website Educade.
Last year I taught third-grade math in a whole new way. Combining elements from the wildly popular sandbox game Minecraft, I had students thinking visually and creatively about mathematical models and theories that went way beyond a typical third-grade curriculum, transforming math class into what I like to call Mathcraft.
Why Minecraft? I could say I am using Minecraft for a number of reasons, like how I find Minecraft enhances metacognition by increasing students’ memory storage capacity. The game itself creates a relatable enjoyable experience that can be internalized and shared in a community of learners. The limitations on the working memory are minimized because the gameplay itself is an extension of our visual sketchpad. Working with students they always say, “I can see it,” and when they see it they share it.
However, the real reason I use Minecraft is that the students chose it. The popularity of the game is so overwhelming and when the lesson became the engagement their attention, confidence, and motivation soared. Here are six great ways to use it in your math classroom.
1. Let students create their world.
If you have an aggressive Minecraft class, you can put them in a single world and either let them all build it by themselves, or allow all the students to build a world together. Personally, I just open up a world in MinecraftEDU (which makes it easier for the teacher since you can do things like freeze the students and transport). I don’t use worlds that have already been created, opting instead to let the kids build their own. I use MinecraftEDU as my server runner and open up the superflat world. We start building and we end up with a crazy math city.
(Next page: 5 more ways to use Minecraft, including adding in maker elements and changing classroom culture)